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Night Terrors In Children

What are Night Terrors?

Night terrors are quite common to children, ages three to twelve years. It is noted that the condition peaks at the age of 3 and a half. These are activities that cannot be avoided as a child may constantly dream, as adults also do. These night terrors are quite effective in making a significant change to the child. This places also alarm among the affected parents, as the children. The night terrors are not directly classified as a dream, instead is a reaction of fear during sleep. This condition is indeed unpleasant and usually occurs during the REM sleep, most likely in the earlier stages.

Night Terrors In Children


The night terrors are quite similar with the presentation of nightmares. But the two are distinct from each other and should not be compared or mistaken as the same. Here are the common manifestations of night terrors in children:

  1. Sudden waking up from sleep, usually in the middle of the night. The child may seem awake but is truly asleep. The child may awaken screaming or catching his or her own breath.
  2. The child manifests intense fear and even may panic. The content of their dream may be threatening but shall have no recollection of it or some sort of the cause.
  3. The child has increased vital signs such as the heart rate and breathing.
  4. There are times that the child is difficult to arouse from sleep.
  5. The very next morning, the child may have a difficult time recollect with the night terror.


This has been quite a debate in the medical science for nothing can truly decipher the tricks of the mind. But accordingly, this condition has been quite linked to sleep deprivation of the children. This is basically triggered when the usual sleep routine of the child has been disrupted or abruptly changed. It is important that the children are very sensitive that breaking their usual routine places a great effect on them.

Stress is also linked to such phenomenon. This can either be stress from school or at home. Lack of sleep is also a stressor.

A trauma or recent accident is also likely rooted for causing night terrors in children.

What Happens During The Night Terror?

Night terrors are quite different from nightmares, for the fact that the child entirely forgets or cannot recollect a memory from the dream. Usually the episode would begin an hour and a half right after falling asleep. Most episodes are noted to last for a minute or two but could come and go for thirty minutes. This phenomenon truly confuses the child that disorientation and confusion is usually noted from them.


A night terror is usually can be easily diagnosed through taking the child’s history. Gathering vital data as the sleeping pattern and its abrupt changes to it can assist in the diagnosis of the condition. As this condition is commonly confused with the known nightmares, taking note of its difference is important. This can play support in diagnosing this condition is through the history of the child and collecting the manifestations of the child.

In order to rule other other possible conditions, it is essential that the child undergo such examinations:

  1. EEG or electroencephalogram. This test shall see what the brain activity of the child is. This can rule out the possibility of a seizure disorder.
  2. Polysomnography. This is a test, basically a combination of tests, which shall check the child’s breathing cycles during sleep. This is done in order to test for any form of breathing problems.

How To Stop Night Terrors (Treatment)

Direct treatment for night terrors is not yet known to medical science. Treatment for night terrors nowadays is only aimed in assisting the child who suffers from them. This is to manage and make the child feel less discomforted from the night terrors. The following are presented are the medical remedies for night terrors:

  1. Once the condition has been known, make sure that the child has a safe sleeping quarter. As night terrors cannot be avoided, making the child safe would help manage the condition.
  2. The parents’ responsibility is not to alter the child’s sleeping routine or pattern. This shall maintain consistency and shall avoid the trigger of night terrors. It shall also be helped with removing any form that shall facilitate sleep disturbance.
  3. Some medications are recommended, such as those that can temporarily resolve the night terrors. Tricyclic antidepressants are prescribed, most especially when the night terrors are at its worst.


Prevention is a good form treatment for night terrors. The following are forms of preventive measures for night terrors:

  1. Interrupting the child’s sleep “before” an episode can avoid further episodes. As the parent has noted the time where the child usually suffers from a night terror, 15 minutes prior to the episode is the right time for to interrupt his/her sleep. This should be done in a routine in order to assist the child in relieving the condition.
  2. Do not abruptly change or alter the child’s sleeping pattern.

Difference Between Nightmare and a Night Terror

The difference between nightmares from night terrors is truly minute or not that recognizable that most of the time both are being compared as the same. The differences between the two are to be presented through this table:


The child seems to be in an unpleasant dream and shall be awakened from it. Complete recognition and recall of the dream shall be noted or partial remembrance is noted. The child shall then seek for a parent or parents’ comfort after the nightmare. Waking up the child from the nightmare is necessary for comfort is much obliged to them.

Night terrors

The child experiencing night terrors shall be in deep slumber. He or she shall be truly restless in an episode of a night terror. One should not wake the child during an episode instead make the vicinity safe for him or her. As the child wakes up in the morning, he or she has no total recall of the episode that had happened.

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